Sheikh Mazen Al-Jarrah Al-Sabah Sheikh Mazen Al-Jarrah Al-Sabah

KUWAIT: Interior Ministry Assistant Undersecretary for Citizenship and Passports Affairs Major General Mazen Al-Jarrah stressed that many illegal residents have been claiming to be bedoons (stateless) while those registered in the 1965 census and the central apparatus for illegal residents number only 34,000. "It is not mandatory to grant them citizenship though they can apply to get it," he stressed, noting that the central apparatus had only contacted the ministry concerning 8,000 people whose files were clean.

Speaking in a TV interview, Jarrah added that many of those claiming to be bedoons were children or husbands of Kuwaiti women who ought to register with the fathers' countries' embassies. "The marriage certificate includes the husband's nationality, you know," he underlined, adding the term bedoon was scrapped in 1987 because it used to be used for tribes that used to enter Kuwait to graze their cattle and sheep. "However, after the Iraq-Iran war, some Iranians claimed to be bedoons from the desert. How is that possible?!"

Former MPs' statements

Responding to a question regarding some former MPs' statements about bedoons, Jarrah stressed that former parliament speaker Ahmad Al-Saadoun was the one who criticized bedoons most since the 1980s, describing them as a 'time bomb'. He refused to comment on former MP Waleed Al-Tabtabaei's statements.

Jarrah also noted that the central apparatus chief Saleh Al-Fadhalah had visited UAE to study how they solved the bedoon problem there, noting that they had been given Comoros citizenship and passports and were now legal residents. "We will not get them Comoros passports and deport them," he underlined, noting that many bedoons were businessmen working in local markets and that registration to get Comoros passports and citizenship would be open soon. "Some bedoons have already legalized their status and got Dominican, Somali and Yemeni citizenships, yet they have to keep their passports valid to be deemed legal residents," he explained, noting that an agreement with the Comoros was not yet signed.

Citizenship withdrawal

Responding to a question about withdrawing nationality, Jarrah said that in cleric Nabil Al-Awadhi's case, it was withdrawn for involvement in plotting against the regime and that he was originally granted citizenship, which authorizes withdrawing it if indicted by a court of law. Commenting on withdrawing Ahmad Al-Jabr's citizenship, Jarrah stressed that Jabr did not hold 'first degree' citizenship that cannot be withdrawn and that its holders can only be referred to court in case of any legal violation. "Jabr was naturalized and Barghash got his citizenship without due right by forgery and claiming to belong to a certain family," he explained, adding that Saad Al-Ajmi was a dual citizen and accordingly, his citizenship was lawfully withdrawn. "It took us long to get documents proving Saad Al-Ajmi's other nationality, which is not an easy task. However, we can do it if we want to, for all those with dual citizenships," he said.

Citizenship calcification

Commenting on a proposal made by Dr Shafiq Al-Ghabra to unify all citizenship calcifications under one article for all citizens, Jarrah strongly disagreed. "With all due respect, Ghabra himself only got his citizenship 'yesterday' (recently). How come he wants to be treated like original Kuwaitis. Just relax doctor. The state has honored you with this citizenship," he said adding that getting US citizenship is not as worthy as that of Kuwait. "It does not guarantee a decent job, housing and marriage loans. Remove those privileges and no one will demand Kuwaiti citizenship," he said. Jarrah strongly denied abusing bedoons, noting that many of them were university graduates and hold degrees in various disciplines.

Responding to a question whether security forces make suspects confess using torture, Jarrah stressed that Kuwait was a country of law and that he could not deny it because some officers had been indicted with up to death penalty for abusing their powers. "Beating is essential and we were all beaten at school," he said, remarking that no confessions were nevertheless extracted or made under compulsion. - Al-Rai